Category Archives: breathing

When things get tough


Sometimes I feel that things aren’t going my way, something is said, I hear something, I interrupt what I hear in a certain way, it may be put across a certain way to make me feel small, inferior, inadequate.

It hurts for a while and the pain can linger for a long, long time.

These are their views on life, they conflict with my views but it is all they have. Pushing bad vibes onto others can only mean one thing, they aren’t happy with their lives, they feel inadequate, things and people aren’t responding they way they want, so they are forcing their will; they have no right to do this as it is against my will, my beliefs, what I live for.

So what is to be done, simply nothing for them but offer kindness, support and time. For myself move away from feeling small, inferior and inadequate, booze could help for a few hours but those feelings will be even stronger when I wake up.

It’s the old classic, quieten myself down and think of things about the present, become interested in everything I do. Making a pot of tea, writing this blog, the ironing is to come later this morning, make the ironing a game for myself to enjoy.

Being interested in things when feeling inadequate I feel isn’t that authentic, it is just doing a diversion, so how do I bring authenticity to the party?

Authenticity comes with being present, that is in time and space, with an intention to do something, I’ve mentioned time and space in other blogs but I’ll mention it again. For time, I ask myself where is my thinking is, am I fretting about something other than what I intend to do; writing a blog about feeling inadequate. If and when the fretting rises I ask myself is it true in this very moment, I find the answer is always NO.

If it isn’t true then why am I fretting?

I find the fretting disappears and I can get on with writing, I notice some butterflies in my stomach just before doubt appears, I use the butterflies as a trigger to ask this question.

For the space part, this is thoughts about re-establishing my thoughts about head, neck, back relationship, my head gently supported on my neck, this support passes down my spine to the bottom of my pelvis where my sit bones are, I have thoughts that my torso is fully supported on my sit bones and I have loads of space between my sit bones and the top of my head. I used to get a bit rigid at this point of my thinking, I now have thoughts that my torso and head can move gently to and fro or sideways freely as I breathe and type this blog.

Whenever those butterflies rise I repeat my thoughts again, this does get better, honest.

I now have thoughts about my intention whilst being here in this moment and space. My inadequacy has disappeared.

If you need more information, you can drop me a line, or subscribe to my mailing list, its free.

Quiet Dogs


The blues hit me yesterday, some old habits do like to show theirs heads when I’m feeling vulnerable. Is it

  • post holiday blues,
  • going back to work blues,
  • returning to normal blues

Do you have any blues that kick you between the legs when you least expect it?

I find the blues a fuzzy place to be, I want to do loads but I want to do nothing, I’m stuck in limbo land. A sort of fuzzy floaty space that just lingers on and on.

So being a master and expert in noticing these thoughts in myself and others, sometimes my thinking goes awry, it just proves that I’m human. However I do have a back up plan, something that you could use in your blue days!

Pause for a moment to reset yourself, find out where the ground is and where’s the top of your head, now get these two points connected. The getting connected is a thought, I think of space getting bigger between the two points, if you feel any muscles joining in you are thinking and doing, pause again and get connected without any muscular effort, this is achievable but does take some practice.

You may have noticed your blues have quietened down, even without any blues you should notice a change in mood, I sense a quietening, you may notice things get louder.

I was at the vets today with one of my dogs, I helped the vet by holding my dog whilst the vet did the procedure, I’ve done this a few times before, what I’ve found that my dogs really quieten down if I think of space between the top of my head and my feet and today  the clock on the vets wall became very noisy then more I thought about space. The vet did comment on how well behaved my dog was.

An other layer of thought you can apply is to be nonjudgmental about yourself and what is happening locally, being nonjudgmental about politics may be a little too far.

You now may feel a little quieter and the blues may be disappearing.

Now for the bad news, these thoughts you have just developed cannot be kept, they are only valid for a moment, they age off in a moment, if you try to keep them they will trip you up and the blues will return.

They need to be refreshed constantly, this does sound like an onerous task, it is when you first start but it does get easier the more you practice. You will find that you don’t know to do this continuously, only when something is bothering you.

That’s enough for today, there is plenty more in my tool box to help me and you if you wish. You have a few options, you can always search for my blogs and read about my ideas, come to my workshops, and soon you will be able to do my workshops via a webinar. Let me know if you are interested.

 

 

 

Grumpy, miserable and sad


There’s plenty of words that describe people with mental health issues, I was going to write some but I’m not, as they are generally defamatory and demeaning. You also have your own list.

I’m really pleased that the Heads Together charity is the lead charity for this week’s London Marathon. It’s about time mental health is accepted and spoke about in public, I have a view that we all suffer from bouts of mental health issues, some are like a runny nose, some like flu and in some cases like pneumonia. My assumption is that we have all had the runny nose version and the runny nose can last for years and years. We just live with it because it feels normal.

I’ll let you into a secret, once upon a time I thought grumpy, miserable and sad was normal.

I was wrong, if you feel like that then you are also wrong.

My normal now is being happy (I do sometimes do get the runny nose but I have tools for me to return to happy).

Happy is a great place to be, I learnt this skill to be happy instead of learning the skill to being grumpy, miserable and sad.

Why is it so easy to be grumpy, miserable and sad? My answer is that where others want you to be because they don’t have the secret of not being grumpy, miserable and sad. The lowest common denominator is grumpy, miserable and sad.

I guess you want to know what tools I use to be happy, if you have read any of my blogs you probably know.

I’ve trained to teach the Alexander Technique, (a lot of hours over 4 years) you may already have heard about this, posture and reducing lower back pain may come to mind. It sort of is but the Alexander Technique is so much more, posture and reducing pain are just the sideshows that people can see, measure and brag about. What the technique is about is to change how you think during your everyday activities. If you are a stressed Eric as I was, full of anxiety, I was so anxious I couldn’t breathe without an inhaler, the inhaler ruled my life, ooh, I hated those years.

Learning to identify my anxious responses to everyday stimulus was the first step and then doing some different, even if the different thing was to do nothing, things started to change, I became less dependent in my inhaler. It took a long time, I’m inhaler free now.

The Alexander technique is many things to many people, it reduces physical pain, it reduces mental pain, I see anxiety as mental pain. It’s all this but what I understand the Alexander Technique to be is training on how to love yourself. If you love yourself from a safe authentic space then you can love others. Judgement of yourself dissipates as does judgement of others. Mindfulness is fine but mindfulness in activity is the key to this love and happiness; this is what the Alexander Technique is. My training as a teacher has taught me how to notice others and offer techniques and ideas to others, many of these ideas are indirect, this is an important aspect of the training as it helps you to notice your habits from a safe indirect perspective. Observing yourself, as I have written before it the first step.

If you are intrigued or want to get rid of your grumpiness give me a call.

 

9 steps to help you breathe


We take breathing for granted unless you have a breathing condition, then every breath is watched carefully.

If I was going to do some strenuous activity I would get my breathing ready for it.

Ugh

Funnily enough I can now take my breathing for granted because I’ve relearnt to trust my breathing and I know it won’t let me down.

Trust is the key!

This took me a long time from watching my every breath to allowing my breath to happen all on its own.

I didn’t do this on my own, I got help from several people – all Alexander Technique Teachers, now I’m an Alexander Technique teacher so I can now help you as well.

The secret of relearning anything is to notice what you have learnt to do it another way. In the case of breathing, I had many beliefs that were different to how my body actually works.

1 – Body mapping

This is relearning where your body parts are really are they are and not where you think they are.

2 – Understanding that you are probably wrong about some things

Again this is relearning but I found this difficult to grasp because it worked but it is wrong. I knew how my diaphragm moved but I was wrong, I was thinking the wrong way round.

3 – Being non-judgmental

Especially for point 2 Understanding that you are probably wrong about somethings, I just got plain angry and very judgmental – being judgmental you are just stuck, simple because you aren’t listening to sense. This took me a while to grasp, there are no half measures, you have the choice of being judgemental or non-judgmental – there’s nothing in the middle.

4 – Noticing things

Noticing muscular tension, what muscular activity do you notice when you become judgmental, is it

  • butterflies
  • shoulders flinch
  • tightening of your jaw
  • a frown
  • you scratch your favourite scratch

There are plenty more.

What’s yours, when you think about breathing?

5 – Doing something different

If you are getting anxious about your breath perhaps breath out a little before you breath in. Your lungs are probably full of air already and the air many be a little stale, I found when I was anxious I just wanted to cram in as much air as possible so I was ready for that moment that never came. So a breathe out before a breathe in then you will get some fresh air.

6 – Breathe in through your nose

There’s lots of benefits,

  • You warm the air before it gets to your lungs
  • You filter the air
  • You smell the air for odours, these could be dangers or good things
  • I get a sense of calming when I breath in though my nose, do you?

7 – Take your time

Take your time to change anything, if you force a change then there will be some judgment somewhere and this judgment will trip you up.

8 – Practice, Practice, Practice

There’s no such thing as practice, life is real, so treat every moment as a real moment.

9 – Seek help

Seek help to get you on your journey to natural breathing.

Why not contact me?

Your furry friend will thank you for it


In my last blog Dogs are a mirror of your thinking I wrote how you calm your dog by just knowing where you are in time and space (it’s at the bottom of the previous blog).

It’s useful for children too but it takes a little longer for them to notice.

If your dog is a mirror to your thinking then you can use their behaviour to notice what you are up to, you may not notice that you are on edge but your dog is messing around, may be chew things that shouldn’t be chewed. Noticing that your dog isn’t calm could be your opportunity to reflect on what you are thinking.

Are you:

  • angry
  • sad
  • depressed
  • anxious
  • extremely happy
  • being humorous
  • having a great time

If you are having a good time, well your dog just wants to join in with your happiness

If you aren’t feeling to happy , then it is time to stop for a moment and discover where you are in time and space. Your furry friend will thank you for it.

If you confident at stopping and resetting your ‘time and space’ you may be ready to check yourself out a little more.

We tend to, including me, know how well we move, we all move almost perfectly, our posture is pretty good, if you ask your friends about these points, you’ll probably get positive answers but when you look at how they move you may think otherwise. We all have a faulty sensory awareness, we think we know where we are in space but what we think is inaccurate. In Your boney hollow I write about the first step to reducing your faulty sensory awareness.

 

 

 

I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing


Now you understand where your sit bones are and also where your head neck joint is, if you  don’t then please read Your boney hollow and Acetabulum is one of those words I just love then you will discover where they are in your body and also what an acetabulum is.

What are your views and beliefs on how breathing happens and how does breathing happen within yourself.

Once I had some really skewed beliefs how I had to breathe, I thought I had to consciously breath when I did any strenuous activity and also I didn’t trust my breathing to happen on its own.

Unfortunately we can learn to control our breathing, this is necessary if you want to hold your breathe when hiding from someone and something or swimming under water. When stress and anxiety becomes a way of life, being conscious of your breathing becomes second nature.

Thoughts of:

  • He going to be angry with me – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • Thats a steep hill to walk up – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I don’t want to face up to something – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I need to go shopping – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing
  • I need to go to work – I’ll hold my breath so I can make sure I’m breathing

The list is endless and you may have other reasons to hold your own breath. This breath holding is the initiation of conscious breathing.

Conscious breathing with anxiety is not a very successful partnership. The anxiety sets your breathing to a quiet mode with minimal diaphragm and rib movement Breathing takes place just at the top of your lungs, you may notice short shallow breathing with some movement of the scapula, the scapula moving forward so the glenohumeral joint rolling forward in space into a shrug.

Conscious breathing with the smallest use of your lungs is not adequate in fact it’s hopeless but that is what may people with anxiety do.

I know I was one of them.

I changed my breathing with help from others and I learnt how my breathing happens and the anatomy involved in breathing. I found the anatomy so important for me as it dismissed the beliefs I had in how I breathed.

Did you know your ribs move up and down hinging about your vertebra and sternum as you breath, this was a shock to me. I thought my ribs were just there to contain my lungs and heart, they didn’t move. Discovering my ribs moved down on an out breathe and up on in breathe was hard discovery to make, first because my ribs moved and secondly the direction of movement was illogical to me and sometimes still is.

The curve of the ribs with their movement changes the volume of air in the lungs. The ribs go down the air is displaced out of the lung, when the ribs go up the volume increases causing a vacuum in the lungs, air is drawn in to the lungs to equalise the vacuum with atmosphere.

There are many muscles that are involved in breathing, if you want to know more then it time for your own research. I might do a later blog about them if you want to wait.

The important thing to know about breathing is that you can just let it happen, when you start interfering with it, you will mess it up. Knowing the physiology and anatomy gave the confidence to leave my breathing alone. I still have certain triggers that bring on an asthma event, instead of jumping to my old trusty inhaler, I use the knowledge of how my breathing happens, notice any rising anxiety, and consciously control the rising anxiety and allow my urge to control my breathing to diminish.

These skills didn’t happen over night, it was may months, in fact a couple of years, so don’t put your inhaler in the bin and do it my way, things my turn nasty for you. Gently, gently is the key.

If you want to know more if got a mailing list where you can receive my blogs via email.

 

 

 

 

Is Shoulder such a bad word?


In my last blog Your boney hollow is misled you, you may not have noticed, I mentioned your shoulder. Some people take umbrage about have an area in your body called the shoulder. I tend to agree however it is in our common language.

If you have an image of your shoulder as being like a doll with moveable arms perhaps you will need to read on.

The area of the shoulder is where the upper arm (humerus) connects to the body via the scapula and via the clavicle to the sternum, there is no skeletal connection on the back.

The range of movement in the arms and hands are huge and also must be strong and stable to allow lifting and pushing heavy objects. To achieve this we have evolved to have a very movable structure that is stable and very strong as well. The muscles on the whole of your back and front of your torso are involved in your arm movement. In fact all your muscles are involved.

Lets experiment, that’s if you feel it’s appropriate to you, move a hand out to the side or in front of you avoid touching anything with your hand. Now imaging your arm is the jib on a crane, just like the one’s used in building very tall buildings. Start lifting a very heavy load that is too heavy for your imaginary crane, now what happens, my crane starts to topple, does yours?

You can put your arm down.

The crane operator has a few options, firstly stop and lower the load, then either reduce the load or strengthen the crane, perhaps adding more counter balance weights and adding heavier load bearing cables would be successful.

We do these adjustments when we lift an arm with or without a load, we adjust muscle tone around our body to counter the effect of falling without even knowing it. This activity is happening continuously, even when I’m sitting writing this blog. Name an activity and this need to be in balance will be paramount in that activity.

I digressed, the shoulder.

I used to think that the shoulder was something a bit nebulas between my neck and upper arm joint, my shoulder blade also had something to do with it as well. Is that similar to your thinking? Add a comment, if  you like, and tell me about your shoulders beliefs.

Here’s a bit of anatomy, I’m deliberately brief as you can always do your own research to know more.

Three are three joints from the sternum to the humerus,

The sternoclavicular joint between the clavicle and the sternum.

The acromioclavicular joint between the scapula and clavicle, this joint is at the acromion process of the scapula,

The  glenohumeral joint between the humerus and the scapula, this joint is at the glenoid cavity of the scapula.

The scapula, the shoulder blade, is a plate like bone that has many muscle attachments to your back from down to your pelvis and up to the top if you neck, please read Your boney hollow if you want to know where the top of your spine is. There are also muscles attached to the sides of you ribs that move the scapula forward around your ribs. We have a huge range of movement in our scapula so that we can use our hands in activity, without the scapula’s range of movement we would be severely constrained.  How about experimenting by moving your scapula to experience the range of movement but don’t strain yourself, be kind to yourself.

You may think that your scapula is all on your back but it isn’t some of it wraps over the top of your ribs.

Put a finger on your sternum and follow along your clavicle, collar bone, until you reach the end of the clavicle at the glenohumeral joint, at the top of this joint is the acromion and just below and slightly to your centre line is the coracoid process, these are both parts of the scapula and at your front.

So what is a shoulder?

Can you tell me!

If you want to know more click here.

 

 

Your boney hollow


One of my previous blogs I wrote about how your lungs function with the aid of your diaphragm and ribs Simply change the volume in your chest cavity. Please read again and perhaps try the breathing experiment.

What I didn’t mention was where you are in space and time when trying the experiment. Hopefully you are sat on a chair, it’s safer on a chair as you may get a little dizzy when experimenting with breathing.

Take a moment to notice how you are sitting, I would recommend that your feet are fully on the ground, if the chair is to high you could use some books or something flat and solid for your feet to rest on. Are you resting your back against the back of the chair, if you are could you just rock forward a little so you pelvis is taking the weight of your upper torso.

If anything I suggest is painful or awkward then please do something else that supports and helps you. 

Now I want you to imaging where your head neck joint is. Nobody is watching so be honest with yourself and point with a finger where you think your head neck joint. Hopefully you where honest with yourself, I want you to learn from not knowing something or your educated guess.

Now I’ll tell you where your head neck joint is;

Put a finger on one of your shoulders and run this finger a long the top of your shoulder to your neck.

Hopefully you will be touching your neck somewhere in the middle, this is roughly where the load bearing part of your neck is. Now run your finger up your neck to under your ear, you have a boney hollow just there. Now repeat with your other hand, on your shoulder, along the front of your shoulder to your neck and then up to the boney hollow under your ear. Between fingers is your head neck joint.

Next time you are using a mirror repeat and have a look.

With your fingers under your ears in the boney hollow, nod and tilt your head to get the experience that your head actually moves and balances from this point.

Can you notice how much freedom you have in your head neck joint?

You may be thinking, why do I need to know this to breathe better?

To improve your use and functioning in anything you do, including breathing, it helps if you are aware of where you are in space and you have an understanding where your joints are and their movement. Some consider that the head neck joint is the most important joint in your body, I do. From this joint and the vertebrae in this area, all nerves, arteries and veins pass to and from your brain to service and support your body in your use. If this are is compressed or constrained in some way then your use and functioning may be impaired.

Now have a thought of distance between your head and the top of your spine, where your fingers are/were. Extend this thought down to the bony part of your pelvis that is resting on the chair. Enjoy this thought, now perhaps repeat the activity in Simply change the volume in your chest cavity with your thoughts of being connected from the top of your head to your pelvis.

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tɛkˈniːk/ noun


Why is the Alexander Technique a technique?

from Google the definition is:

technique
tɛkˈniːk/
noun
  1. a way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure.
    “new surgical techniques mean a shorter hospital stay”
I have difficulty in accepting the work “technique” for Alexander’s discovery, technique to me describes a linear process that is well defined and has recognised steps to achieve the goal, a procedure.
The path to Alexander’s discovery is anything but a linear process, there are ups and downs, blind passages, and dead ends to discover, I’ve been down quite a few. The singularity to Alexander Technique to me states that there is only one way, perhaps there is, once you have discovered the ups and downs, blind passages and dead ends aren’t needed in your ultimate discovery.
Just understanding the technique from ground zero, understanding it straight away will give you the ease and poise that Alexander’s discovery brings but you will miss the richness of understanding what life brings over the years before your discovery of his discovery.
From a personal viewpoint coming to his discovery later on in life has given me the opportunity to experience life’s ups and downs, I understand more what people have gone through; their avoidance methods, their procrastination, their depression, their sadness, their physical pain because I’ve been there and I’m still there sometimes, that’s if I want to.
Alexander’s discovery has given me the opportunity to make better choices in my daily life, I may want to procrastinate on something and not on something else.
My procrastination now is not the typical aviodance, but now a decision to put it off and complete later. This is a step change in my life and now things get done.
I’ve achieved this by being content where I am in time and space, understanding where my head is in relation to my neck, my neck is relation to my back, all this with a light thought of my head gently moving on the top of my spine.
This all sounds a bit weird but believe me it works, knowing this give me the time to decide what to do from a safe position, anxiety and worry can’t get me so I can make rational decisions that I know are authentic as in those moments I’m being authentic. In these moments I’m applying Alexander’s Technique, but my journey to getting there I used his discovery.

When thinking goes awry


Sometimes I don’t want to walk my dogs, lots of excuses, non of them are valid but in the moment they are really true – honest. It’s that moment of getting up and doing something to meet the expectation of others or my dogs that I find difficult to achieve.

The trouble with trying to keep up with someone else’s expectations, I’m doomed to fail; I will be never be quite good enough or that’s what I may think.

So what can be done, instead of trying to satisfy someone else’s expectations, I go for a walk  for myself and the dogs can come as well. It’s their choice to come along if they want. My dogs never say no so now I have a win – win situation. I’m going for a walk under my rules.

Some where to go, I’m quite fortunate as I can walk out from my house, up a very step hill into the Forest of Dean. Sometimes if I’m not in the mood the hill outside is just too steep so I have other options, dogs in the car and off to somewhere else. My favourite walk, my sanctuary is Soudley Ponds, my dogs love being there as you may have guessed there’s water, my dogs love water, I prefer dogs and water to dogs and mud.

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There’s a good path around the ponds and parking at both ends. At Soudley Ponds I have two walks, the easy one around the ponds, the walk is just under 2 miles so it is a nice distance to reflect and reset my thinking for the day. I return home motivated and eager to get on with the day.

If I want a challenging walk there’s a step hill up to Blaize Bailey  (a link to google maps) there’s a view point which looks over the River Severn, it’s just a beautiful view. Perhaps a blog about the Blaize Bailey walk later.

I use my walks to reset myself, consider if all those urgent things are really urgent, perhaps decide to tackle a few of those things I love to procrastinate about. I always find them so simple once I get started and a great relief once they are completed.

Have you ever wondered how we do things, a thought and it happens. Keeping it very simple, we think and something happens, for example, at the moment I’m having thoughts about what to write, I translate these non verbal thoughts into verbal thoughts, formulate a sentence then change these verbalised thoughts into muscular activity so my fingers can move around my keyboard to produce these words. We do this all the time and it’s amazing how with just a thought things happen.

Sometimes this simple thinking can get awry, a few years ago I wouldn’t have dared to walk a few hundred yards without my trusty inhaler, yes I suffered from asthma, or as I like to think nowadays my thinking had gone awry. I was stuck in the freeze mode of the fear reflex. The fear relex is wonderful for freezing when hiding when being chased or being quiet ready to pounce on prey but not if it’s held for weeks, months and years.

I did years, several miserable years, years I can’t remember.

I just survived.

In the freeze mode I found that I breathed in but not out, there was some breathing else I won’t be here to tell you.

My breathing function reduced to just using the upper part of my lungs, my inhaler helped when things got tough.

I thought my life was set as it was.

However I discovered that my thinking was awry and that I could change my thinking, I needed help to guide me though and time to realise it was possible. So if your breathing is effected by stress, depression, anxiety then from my experience there is help and it’s within you, you may be like me and need help to find it in yourself and you may be able to find away yourself.

There’s many aspects to understand about your breathing, I found that understanding where my lungs and diaphragm are helped me, it may help you. Also understanding how breathing is semi-automatic; we can control breathing or just let it happen without conscious control. It is this ability to consciously control breathing when fear triggers the fight and flight response.

If you get stuck then your thinking goes awry.

So how to prevent, notice, do something to prevent this thinking, you’ll have to wait or read more in my mailing list; if you live in the Forest we could meet up and enjoy my sanctuary, Soudley Ponds?

The trouble with trying to keep up with someone else’s expectations, I’m doomed to fail; I will be never be quite good enough or that’s what I may think. Again this is thinking gone awry.